Systematic Review of Digital Phenotyping and Machine Learning in Psychosis Spectrum Illnesses : Harvard Review of Psychiatry

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Systematic Review of Digital Phenotyping and Machine Learning in Psychosis Spectrum Illnesses

Benoit, James PhD; Onyeaka, Henry MD; Keshavan, Matcheri MD; Torous, John MD, MBI

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Harvard Review of Psychiatry 28(5):p 296-304, 9/10 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000268



Digital phenotyping is the use of data from smartphones and wearables collected in situ for capturing a digital expression of human behaviors. Digital phenotyping techniques can be used to analyze both passively (e.g., sensor) and actively (e.g., survey) collected data. Machine learning offers a possible predictive bridge between digital phenotyping and future clinical state. This review examines passive digital phenotyping across the schizophrenia spectrum and bipolar disorders, with a focus on machine-learning studies.


A systematic review of passive digital phenotyping literature was conducted using keywords related to severe mental illnesses, data-collection devices (e.g., smartphones, wearables, actigraphy devices), and streams of data collected. Searches of five databases initially yielded 3312 unique publications. Fifty-one studies were selected for inclusion, with 16 using machine-learning techniques.


All studies differed in features used, data pre-processing, analytical techniques, algorithms tested, and performance metrics reported. Across all studies, the data streams and other study factors reported also varied widely. Machine-learning studies focused on random forest, support vector, and neural net approaches, and almost exclusively on bipolar disorder.


Many machine-learning techniques have been applied to passively collected digital phenotyping data in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Larger studies, and with improved data quality, are needed, as is further research on the application of machine learning to passive digital phenotyping data in early diagnosis and treatment of psychosis. In order to achieve greater comparability of studies, common data elements are identified for inclusion in future studies.

© 2020 President and Fellows of Harvard College

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